Monday, November 28, 2011

Preppy Style at Home

I grew up in the very “preppy” town of Duxbury, Massachusetts. We were so preppy, in fact, that we got a mention in the 1980 Official Preppy Handbook. The thing I really came away with was that being a real "preppy" was something innate. There were those born to the preppy life who were never particularly comfortable there and others who became preppy and fit right in.

The Official Preppy Handbook

The Official Preppy Handbook   (clipped to

The preppy lifestyle is not just about fashion (although Nantucket red chinos, Top Siders without socks, and Polo shirts with upturned collars were certainly de rigueur), it’s about a lifestyle. It has the patina of old money and country club tradition, but with a more colorful and casual exuberance. It’s definitely not about age, as much of the clothing works for generations and certainly some truly Boston Brahmin preps keep their clothes for that long! True preppy style derives more from the windblown feeling that you’ve just pulled your skiff in after a bracing morning on the water than a white dinner jacket evening at the club.

I asked Scot Meacham Wood, of SMW Design and the blog Tartan Scot, a Southern boy currently living in San Francisco, his take on modern prep. Known for his great collection of plaid blazers, Wood is the embodiment of casual preppy chic. When asked about preppy fashion, Wood says it’s all about cut and fit. "This current 'preppy movement' is much more body conscious than the one I remember from the 80’s.  This current trend is also a bit more 'weathered,'" he said.  "The clothing has more of a sense of history.  Many people find the tattered oxford shirts and patch-covered jeans to be more of a pastiche. Luckily for me, I still have all the oxford shirts from my college years - so the tatters are legitimate."

Wood points to menswear designer Michael Bastian as doing a great modern preppy look. "He has, in the last few years, completely re-imagined the modern preppy male.  Beautiful, classic clothing, but with a fit that is much more body aware than the baggy khakis and loose sweaters that we wore in the 80’s," he said.
Lily Pulitzer desk and wallpaper via Horchow

When it comes to home interiors, Wood also noted the breezy new Lily Pulitzer collection for Lee Jofa, saying he is particularly taken with the great patterns, amazing colors and "sheer happiness" of the line. "It certainly represents a style that is considered to be 'classic' American", said Wood.

Mixed in with the bright exuberance of the Lily Pulitzer line is the ever-classic Ralph Lauren Home collection. Ralph Lauren is the embodiment of the self-made man to whom a classic American, casual prep style came naturally, belying his Bronx upbringing. Scott Meacham Wood, who earlier in his career worked as a stylist for Ralph Lauren Home in California, enjoys the mixing of lighter and brighter fabrics with classic leathers and linens. This mixing of materials, both old and new, imbues a sense of history. A layering of art and accessories adds to the overall historical, yet still casual, feel.

In the wrong hands, preppy style becomes a cliché, almost a uniform. Red trousers: check; Top Siders: check; sailboats: check, check. But these things only scratch the surface. Decking your home in sailboat motifs and brown leather furniture (the interiors version of the uniform) doesn’t truly capture the breezy essence of the preppy lifestyle. In addition to Ralph Lauren and Lily Pulitzer lines mentioned above, here is a list of 5 must-have items that capture the essence of the preppy home.

    1. The pineapple is a traditional sign of welcome. A pineapple door knocker says welcome right away!
    2. Breezy bedding from Pine Cone Hill’s Cape Calm collection
    3. Brightly lacquered Chinese Chippendale chairs. Classic design style meets pretty exuberance.
    4. Pottery Barn’s Chesterfield leather sofa is all about tradition and comfort.  The leather will develop a wear-worn distressed look over time, fitting right in the style.
    5. Lily Pulitzer for Lee Jofa
    6. The Lighthouse Denim and White striped rug by Dash and Albert Rug Company feels fresh underfoot, like a snapping sail or a classic button down shirt.
    7. Ralph Lauren Home
    Furnishings should be sturdy and comfortable, they should hold up to lots of use and sandy feet, and should become even more comfortable over time. Nothing should be too modern, too dark or too neon. It’s a careful yet casual mixing of ingredients, of things you love and find comfortable, that really captures the essence of a preppy lifestyle.

    Written by Linda Merrill for Reprinted with permission.

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    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    The Skirted Roundtable: Chatting with Martyn Lawrence Bullard

    I hope everyone (in America!) has had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday - such a nice time to relax and slow down!

    A couple of weeks ago, Joni, Megan and I sat down at The Skirted Roundtable with designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard to talk about his career, he celebrity clients and his time on the Bravo reality show "Million Dollar Decorators". Martyn has such a warm presence and is someone who clearly loves what he does.

    So, as the post-turkey tryptophan coma wears off, head on over and have a listen!

    If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!
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    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Happy Thanksgiving Wishes!

    Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday filled with friends, family and fun! I am so thankful this year for so many things: a supportive family, great friends, wonderful clients and the trust they give me with their homes, professional colleagues who are friends too and the entire online, blogging community. We all so this for varied reasons, but I do believe we all receive much of the same benefit - the support of a far reaching, creative community who inspires us all on a daily basis. 

    So, here's to you all! 

    Photo credit: Michael J. Lee for ::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Green and Easy Thanksgiving Centerpieces

    You can’t enter a store this time of year without being bombarded with holiday music and tacky decorations. As an interior designer, those tacky decorations really get my goat because I know that simple decorations look so much nicer. Contrary to what’s sold in the stores, there are many easy and elegant holiday decorations that can be made from things we already own, or can be easily purchased and reused. Here is a group of natural Thanksgiving centerpieces that look elegant and don't cost much.

    via DIY Life 
    Hollow out a smallish pumpkin to create a beautiful, seasonal vase. Fill with seasonal flowers such as mums or red and orange gerbera daisies.

     From the pages of Better Homes & Gardens: Hot glue the heads of mums directly onto small pumpkins for a unique look. Place a few down the center of the table in different color combinations. These will make easy-to-see-over centerpieces and you can use less than perfect pumpkins to boot!

    Also from Better Homes & Gardens: If you have an acorn tree in your yard, start collecting the fallen acorns early in the season. These can be hot glued onto an old basket or dish and used as a very natural looking container for a centerpiece. If you wish, you can also gild the lily by spray painting the acorns with a metallic paint and filling a clear glass bowl with the tiny golden nuggets.

    From Fresh Home: Scoop out a round shallow hole in apples or pears and place a tea light candle inside for some festive lighting around the table. These are so tiny that each guest could have their own.

    An idea from Southern Living: If you’ve had a relatively small tree come down in your yard, don’t just send the logs through the chipper. Cut 4-6” rounds for natural looking bases of varying heights to prop up centerpieces. Just make sure the wood is free of insects and is relatively clean.

    From Good Housekeeping: Create a citrus scented centerpiece by thinly slicing lemons and oranges, drying them in a 250 degree oven and then apply to thick pillar candles with hot glue. The warmth of the candles will release a gentle scent throughout the evening.

    Also from Good Housekeeping: For a down home, rustic looking centerpiece, empty out a box of Clementine’s and loosely wrap the box with natural burlap, stapling in the inside base to secure. Spike the fruit with whole cloves in the manner of an old-fashioned pomander and refill the box. A spicy orange scent will fill the air nicely.

    Written by Linda Merrill for Networx .

    If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!
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    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    ::Surroundings:: Holiday Style Issue is Now Available!

    Enjoy and "old-timey" Cape Cod Christmas with my new Holiday Style Issue! Thanks again to the talented Michael J. Lee for taking such a beautiful photo! I also want to thank some very talented designers and bloggers - aka the Brizo Blogger 19 alumni - who contributed their favorite holiday color combinations to this issue. Not one the same and all amazing!

    If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!
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    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Boston Interntional Fine Art Show & Design New England

    Last evening was the opening night of the 2011 Boston International Fine Art Show at the Cyclorama in the So. End. The Gala Preview was held in conjunction with the Design New England magazine 5th Anniversary party where they announced their first year's "Mentors in Design" honorees.

    It was great to see such a large and supportive turnout for both events under one roof and I think a brilliant idea on the parts of the magazine and art show organizers to combine these two events into one - thus supporting the work of fine artists and the galleries that represent them, the interior design and architecture industry, as well as the magazine. While the concept of the "1% v. 99%" is such a common battle cry these days, it's important to remember who is buying original art,  who is hiring design professionals, and who reads the shelter magazines. All of which supports working artists, gallery owners, tradespeople, writers, photographers and countless other very working class occupations. (off soap box now!)

    By far, the artist who's work really jumped off the canvas and pulled me in was Geoffrey Johnson, represented by the Principal Gallery in Virginia. Born in 1965, Mr. Johnson is a native of Greensboro, NC. His artist statement reads:
    A native of North Carolina, Geoffrey Johnson received his classical training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.  Since his time there, he has established himself as a true innovator, successfully capturing the alluring space between abstraction and realism.   A fascination with both the human figure and the powerful architecture of a modern city play a large role in his oils.  Through a feeling of anonymity, figures become suggestive shapes and the skyline of New York materializes mysteriously in the background.  The paintings embody the mood of each urban experience.

     The following two pieces are from Mr. Johnson's "City Line" collection on display at the show. (Apologies for the bad iPhone shots!)

    Other works:

    Love these!!

    The Boston International Fine Arts Show runs today through Sunday (11/18-11/21) at the Boston Cyclorama. Visit for all the details!

    If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!
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    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Make your mark

    The urge to stamp our name upon our homes has been around a very long time. It was not invented in the "me decade".  In fact, I recently attended an antiques show in Boston and one of the booths featured an oak "Press Cupboard" dating to 1680 and carved into the front panel was the "marriage triad" (the first initials of both the groom and bride and their last initial) for a newly married couple.

    Today, that "marriage triad" is still highly in vogue. Not part of a marriage? Single initials of first or last names are also always a popular choice. Monogrammed home products don't characterize you as self-absorbed; they characterize you as stylish. Here is a list of ten lovely items for the home that can be monogrammed.

    Monogrammed toilet paper: Ballard Designs offers the perfect gift for the house that has everything else: Monogrammed toilet paper. Personalized bath tissue will certainly make a statement and cause a giggle or two!
    Monogrammed tote bags: Monogrammed tote bags, like the classic LL Bean Boat and Tote Bag, have long been a favorite of city dwellers and country folk alike. These large size bags are a great way to sort laundry, toys or even books. You could have a bag monogrammed for each family member for cute and easy organization.

    Monogram wall decal: As long as you're putting your name on things, why not an entire wall? Three Hip Chicks offers a wide array of wall decals in many different colors and monogram styles. And nothing is easier to put up than a quick wall decal.

    Monogrammed towels: Naturally, the classic monogrammed item, that stalwart of wedding gifts is the elegant monogrammed bath towel. As an intimate space, the bathroom is the perfect spot to bring together a newly married couple. But singles can indulge as well – I've certainly had towels done for single clients as well.

    Monogrammed mugs: Monogrammed mugs make for great housewarming or holiday gifts and classic Emma mugs from Pottery Barn are a good choice. As these can be ordered one at a time ― select the first initial for each person in the home for a truly personalized gift.

    Monogrammed door mat: Starting right at the front door, monogrammed coir (a natural fiber) doormats from Pottery Barn are a custom order item that will welcome callers in a very traditional manner.

    Monogrammed ice bucket: The gorgeous Bleaker Bar Ice Bucket from Williams-Sonoma is elegant enough to make a great wedding gift, but priced reasonably enough to make it a guilt-free purchase for your own home. This beautiful glass and metal bucket can hold a bottle of wine, champagne or keep your favorite vodka chilled to perfection.

    Monogrammed shower curtain: If monogrammed bath towels are little bit out of your budget, how about your initial on the shower curtain instead? In a neutral color like ivory, it's perfect for men or women and can add an upscale touch to even an ugly apartment bathroom. Aussino monogrammed shower curtain at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

    Monogrammed lamp shades: Monogrammed lampshades are always a favorite. Whether sewed or stenciled, a single letter in an elegant script will perk up even the most everyday kind of lamp. This works well on chandelier shades as well. Via Etsy.

    Monogrammed dining chairs: Make an old-world statement in any dining room. Customized slipcovers can be purchased for standard size chairs, or custom monogramming can be applied to fabrics before being upholstered onto the furniture. This option offers a completely customizable solution where you have total choice over colors, fonts and placement.

    A final note: At this time of year, customized gifts with monogramming should be given long lead times and many vendors require 3-4 weeks to process and monogram order. So, plan ahead!

    Written by Linda Merrill for, reprinted here with permission.

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    Friday, November 11, 2011

    2011 New York Fall Tabletop Show

    Contributed by Lori Dolnick

    Nostalgic looks, functional designs and sensuous textures

    Every spring and fall, the tableware industry shows off what’s new, stylish and on trend at Forty One Madison in New York City. The show is only open to the media, retail buyers and interior designers as many of the new introductions haven’t even been produced yet and won’t be in stores  - well, until a store commits to purchasing them. The fun part about visiting these showrooms is that you get a glimpse – a whole year in advance – of what the latest tabletop colors, fashions and concepts will be. Here are a few of the standouts and trends spotted.

    Textured Trend in Flatware

    Hampton Forge launched a new line of textured flatware patterns from their Italian design team. According to Suso Balanza, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Hampton, “The new Hampton collections pair elegant design and sensuous texture. We feel ‘textures’ are the next hot trend in tabletop fashion.” The Argent Brocade pattern is one of my favorites in this series – you really get the appeal of the texture. Hampton is known for its accessible price points and the new Signature and Argent collections indicate another trend. Consumers want value – but they won’t part with their dollars for something cheap. These textured collections put something more in your hand. It’s forged stainless that will last, with designs that can play from kitchen to formal dinner party.


    This tableware pattern takes me back to my grandmother’s apartment. She had these Audubon prints that were part science, part fashion and part nature. I loved them then and I love the modern interpretation in the Villeroy & Boch Amazonia Collection. The Amazonia collection features the diverse and colorful nature of the Amazon region in delicately crafted porcelain.

     Nesting in Format

    You have to love dishes that perfectly nest one inside the other. Especially when space is limited. Format is a minimal, modern collection from Rosenthal, designed by Christophe de la Fontaine. It’s striking retro 50’s and 60’s design features basic cylindrical forms that offer purposeful function. For instance the glasses have a platform at the bottom, which helps collect the aroma and releases the wine’s bouquet.


    Sphera by Sambonet is a red dot design award winner for its nostalgic space age design and functional quality as a decorative item or serving tray. I’m very much into the whole Pan Am, Mad Men vibe and these curvy trays make me crave highballs and happy hours. It’s also nice to see a design that can live in a masculine or feminine world. Many of the patterns at the Fall Tabletop show have pulled back on frills since men do take an active part in the registry experience. And many young men are also decorating their own spaces.

    International Flavor
    Laurie Gates is a master of color and pattern – his hand crafted dishware patterns are bold and distinctively on trend. The new Melrose Collection incorporates popular paisley and Jacobean design elements in deep rich reds and purples. Laurie tells us that paisley is considered a sign of fertility. So aspiring grandparents take note! This might make a perfect wedding gift.

    For availability of these collections, designers and consumers should check online or call the manufacturers.

     Lori Dolnick is a regular contributor to ::Surroundings::

    See all Lori's posts here

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    Friday, November 04, 2011

    New England Design Hall of Fame 2011

    Gorgeous centerpieces by Winston Flowers

    The 5th annual New England Design Hall of Fame dinner was last night and as usual, it was a fantastic evening of celebrating the New England design communities including interior design, architecture, landscaping and craftsmanship. The HOF is sponsored by New England Home Magazine and each year for the past five, a small group of professionals who have made significant contributions to the NE design community both through professional accomplishment and social/charitable commitments are inducted.

    This year's class of HOF inductees included (l-r): Bernard Wharton, architect; Matthew & Elizabeth Elliot, architects; Nancy Serafini, interior designer; Kris Horiuchi, landscape designer; Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez, presedient of the No. Bennet Street School; and Daniel Solien, landscape designer (partnered with Kris Horiuchi).

    Bernard Wharton, of Shope Reno Wharton, is based in Connecticut and is on the AD100 list.

    images via Architectural Digest, photographed by Durston Saylor

    Matthew & Elizabeth Elliot, Elliot + Elliot Architecture, are based out of Maine.

     photography by Brian Vanden Brink

    Nancy Serafini, Homeworks Interior Design,  is based in Massachusetts and her work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Traditional Home and many regional publications. 

    photo by Dave Henderson

    photo by Sam Gray

    photo by Sam Gray

    Kris Horiuchi and Daniel Solien, Horiuchi Solien Inc., landscape designers, is based in Massachusetts.
    photo via Coastal Living, photo by Brian Vanden Brink

    North Bennet Street School, Specialty Award. Located in Boston's North End, the North Bennet Street School was founded 125 years ago to teach new immigrants skills that would enable to assimilate and move into gainful employment. Over the last century, the school has evolved into a place where one learns at the highest levels of craftmanship. Cabinet and furniture making, violin making, bookbinding and jewelry design are just a few of their offerings.


    Congratulations to all - you are all enormously inspirational!

    If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!
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